Conradh comes off the political fence

Conradh na Gaeilge (aka, the Gaelic League), the primary membership organisation for the promotion and propagation of Irish, is now organising a campaign to ask people not to vote Fine Gael, since it’s adoption of a policy to change the compulsory status of Irish in the Republic’s school system. Gearóid O Cairealláin is all for it.

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  • CJ

    Typical crap from the Irish language lobby. Fundamental to the Fine Gael proposal is that removing compulsory Irish will encourage the language, by getting uninterested pupils out of classrooms and, long-term, taking away the resentment factor. Conradh na Gaeilge has lept to the assumption that Fine Gael are attacking Irish- in fact, they are acting in its best interests by altering a policy that has seen Irish use decline year on year.

  • EMD

    Not typical crap.

    The status quo isn’t good enough. Students often reach the Leaving Certificate without being taught the language properly. The problem isn’t ‘uninterested pupils’ clogging up the classroom. It’s the way an Gaeilge has been taught to most students long before they reach the Leaving Certificate. The proposed Fine Gael solution is to allow them to opt out at this stage. They don’t understand the problem.

    Conradh na Gaeilge, in contrast, have put together solid practical proposals to improve how Irish is taught throughout the education system, rightly emphasising the importance of the primary level. They have based their proposals on studies into one of the more successful areas of education policy on this Island – Gaelscolaíocht – and suggest ways to extend the benefits of Tumoideachas to every student. They include improved training for primary school teachers with a year in a mioncholáiste lán-Ghaeilge learning through and about tumoideachas. Every primary school teacher should have a good standard of Irish. Teaching subjects other than Gaeilge as Gaeilge in primary school has been successful in the Gaelscoils. CnaG propose teaching another subject to all children as Gaeilge. They also suggest splitting the post-primary syllabus into “Teanga na Gaeilge” and “Litríocht na Gaeilge.”

    These proposals make sense and would serve the interests of children far better than merely allowing them to opt out of a state exam. The strength of the Leaving Certificate is its broadness. Having a national and “first official language” is meaningless if we don’t make every effort to give children the opportunity to learn it.

    The Conradh’s proposals would mean less “uninterested pupils” in the classroom but are far more positive than this typical unthinking populist crap from Fine Gael that’s only fit for billboard campaigns. I’m glad Conradh na Gaeilge are opposing them and hope it furthers the debate on how we teach the language.

  • Keith M

    Compulsion has done a huge dis-service to the language and at a time when almost one in ten children going through our primary and secondary education systems was not born in Ireland it is time to face reality.

    End the compulsion and instead find a way of encouraging those that do take Irish Gaelic through extra points for third level entry etc. I am actually considering voting FG next year’s election as they are the only party that seems able to take on the sacred cows like “neutrality” and the language.

  • CJ

    EMD

    “Having a national and “first official language” is meaningless if we don’t make every effort to give children the opportunity to learn it.”

    It’s already meaningless, seeing as how the vast majority of people don’t speak it This is because they don’t wish to, not because they don’t have the oppurtunity to learn the language.

    Fine Gael certainly understand the problem: an improved curriculum isn’t going to solve it. It’s certainly a welcome step, because currently they have 17th century poetry being taught to people who have a tenous grasp of the language, but it doesn’t address the real issue. If your language is going to die out by ending compulsion, whats the point?

    The fact is that ending compulsion won’t damage the language at all, because people who are interested in the language will choose it for the LC anyway, and these are the people who will speak it in later life. Those who resent being forced to speak Irish won’t do just because they’re made learn it. No-one reads historical biographies as an adult just because they were made do Junior Cert History.

    It’s an issue of choice; why the hell shouldn’t students “opt out” of a subject they derive no satisfaction from? Compulsory Irish is a sop to the fanatical devotion of a minority.

    By the way: Gaelscoils are a success because of the ludicrous scheme of giving bonus marks to Leaving Cert papers answered as Gaeilge. Remove that, and the more generous student/ teacher ratio to which they are entitled, and then we’d get a fair comparision.

    Populist crap, is it? Works for me.

  • Leaving Cert Irish is too pedantic and that ,imho, is the main problem. The emphasis and the marks are mostly for grammar, so much so that the mark award system more resembles Latin than English. The choice of books is pretty bad too. At least CnaG are genuine, something that cannot be said of most politicians or of the fat arsed civil servants who decide policy.
    The Irish language schools work for a variety of reasons, the least important of which is the extra marks. Mostly, they keep Micky Mudd and Paddy Stink out and are middle class hang outs.

  • páid

    CJ,

    “It’s already meaningless, seeing as how the vast majority of people don’t speak it.”

    This fact does not make it “meaningless”.

    “If your language is going to die out by ending compulsion, whats the point?”

    Who said it was?

    “The fact is that ending compulsion won’t damage the language at all”

    Any sociolinguistic evidence for this unsupported view?

    “why the hell shouldn’t students “opt out” of a subject they derive no satisfaction from?”

    Maths? English?

    “Compulsory Irish is a sop to the fanatical devotion of a minority.”

    Opinion polls show a majority in favour, even amongst school students.

    “Gaelscoils are a success because of the ludicrous scheme of giving bonus marks to Leaving Cert papers answered as Gaeilge.”

    Most Gaelscoil students do their LC in English 5 years after leaving Gaelscoil.

    “Remove that, and the more generous student/ teacher ratio to which they are entitled, and then we’d get a fair comparision”

    Fair enough, but let’s also level the playing field by having equal standards of textbooks and teaching materials in Irish and English.

  • Nil is agam

    So the way to promote the Irish language is to continually beat kids over the head with it? I’m all for the promotion of the Irish language, and speak it as much as possible to my children, but the crippling waste of time that it becomes for many children by being compulsory is ridiculous. Conradh taking such a partisan stance on the issue is highly suspect for a supposedly apolitical language promotion body. Child rapists are walking free from prison under the current government but Conradh by implication seeks to preserve this bumbling right-wing careless ass of a coalition to keep Irish compulsory. Really, well done on your principled stance.

  • CJ

    pid

    If most people don’t speak the language, then a constitutional clause making it the “first official language” IS rendered pretty meaningless, only expressed by giving semi-state bodies Irish names and, yes, compulsory Irish in schools. It has its roots in ideology, not reality.

    If no-ones saying that ending compulsion will cause Irish to die out, what’s the problem? End it purely to alleviate the misery of schoolchildren who despise it.

    Compulsion won’t damage the language for the simple reason I outlined above: people who are forced, absolutely against their will, to learn a language, aren’t going to use it just because they know it. Not sure how “sociolinguistic” that is, but it’s common sense backed up by decades of failure with a policy of compulsion.

    Maths and English are of tangible benefit in later life, as any educationalist will tell you. Irish benefits only those who wish to learn. They have the right to do so, naturally, but not the right to force everyone else.

    Opinion polls differ. Fine Gael one found one thing, a different one at the weekend found another. Even if a majority were in favour, removing compulsion would not remove their right to choose to get their own kids to learn Irish. Besides, Irish keeps declining despite compulsion, so to save it we need a new policy no matter what people think.

    I’m not going to pretend much knowledge about Gaelscoil(s?)(eanna?) but I was talking about secondary level Irish schools, not primary. One has a definite advantage if one takes a Leaving Cert paper in Irish because there are extra marks for this. If most take them in English, I won’t complain, but as the correspondent above says there are other reasons for their success that cannot be traced back to the magical effects of melifluous Gaeilge.

  • Joe835

    Despite Enda’s charm deficit, I will vote Fine Gael in the next election because there is nothing I resented more in school than having to learn Irish.

    If it’s such a cherished language, surely it will survive on its own merit and not by state-sponsored life support. I would be happy to watch it be preserved where it survives i.e. in the Gaeltachtanna (although the planted, contrived Gaeltacht of Rath Cairn is nothing more than that – planted and contrived, surrounded by English-speakers in their thousands), but I did not grow up speaking it, neither will my children (or most Irish people’s kids, really) so I don’t see why it should be up there as important as Maths in the school curriculum.

    Every day I’m more and more grateful I can not only speak English, but think in English and understand the vast, vast majority of printed words, conventionally or electronically, on this planet without having to strain myself.

    The unrealistic attempt to create an Irish-speaking state out of an English-speaking people through compulsory Irish never stood a chance. Optional Irish, where a willing minority might learn the cupla focail, may stand a chance.

    That’s what Fine Gael are trying to do. And that kind of realism, in the face of the predictably-hysterical protestations of the hitherto unquestionable Irish language lobby, makes me want to vote for them.

  • páid

    The unrealistic attempt to create an Irish-speaking state out of an English-speaking people through compulsory Irish never stood a chance.

    Joe, swap Irish and English around in your sentence above and have a think about it.

  • Keith M

    pid, Ireland is an English speaking country and has been for well over a hundred years. Indeed the Eastern half of the country has been English speaking for hundreds of years. If you cannot accept reality then you are making a mockery of any debate here.

    Joe has made the case for English and it is all but impossible to refute. If you want to make a case for Irish Gaelic, then please do so, but we cewrtainly haven’t seen one so far.

    As for compulsory English and Maths, these are compulsory because you cannot really function in this country without a reasonable knowledge of both. Interestingly foreign students who transfer to Irish schools during secondary are required to take English but not Irish Gaelic, so the Department of Education has some small degree of common sense.

  • Joe835

    Keith seems to have answered pid’s reply for me but all I would say is that I’ve swapped Irish and English in that sentence like you suggested and all I got was a lie; the attempt to create an English-speaking state out of an Irish-speaking people has succeeded, whether realistic at the time or not. The very fact that in the 12 comments on this entry so far, none of us have put more than a couple of Irish words (myself included) speaks volumes about how things actually are in this country.

    pid, all you’ve done is what I’ve come up against with any other supporter of mindless, ubiquitous compulsory Irish – present a rhetorical, baseless statement and hope that the fact that we’re all Irish, we should speak Irish and if you don’t want that, you must be less Irish will overpower anything I have to say.

    This is a young country and it needs to grow up.

  • CJ

    Hear hear

  • pid

    Keith

    pid, Ireland is an English speaking country and has been for well over a hundred years. Indeed the Eastern half of the country has been English speaking for hundreds of years. If you cannot accept reality then you are making a mockery of any debate here

    I never said any different, though Irish is still spoken in the Gaeltachts.

    Joe has made the case for English and it is all but impossible to refute. If you want to make a case for Irish Gaelic, then please do so, but we cewrtainly haven’t seen one so far.

    You’re entitled to your opinion.

    As for compulsory English and Maths, these are compulsory because you cannot really function in this country without a reasonable knowledge of both.

    I agree they should be compulsory. I’m glad you acknowledge that English is compulsory.

    Joe,

    the attempt to create an English-speaking state out of an Irish-speaking people has succeeded, whether realistic at the time or not.

    I agree. Force worked in the past, I don’t propose it for the future.

    The very fact that in the 12 comments on this entry so far, none of us have put more than a couple of Irish words (myself included) speaks volumes about how things actually are in this country.

    The writer of the piece and myself would prefer the debate to be as Gaeilge. Unlike the forcers of English on the Irish people, we prefer a wide debate.

    pid, all you’ve done is what I’ve come up against with any other supporter of mindless, ubiquitous compulsory Irish – present a rhetorical, baseless statement and hope that the fact that we’re all Irish, we should speak Irish and if you don’t want that, you must be less Irish will overpower anything I have to say.

    This is a young country and it needs to grow up.

    You’re entitled to your opinion. Unlike you, Joe, though I do not agree with them, I won’t call them mindless.

    I do not consider you to be ‘less Irish’ and I challenge you to state where I said or implied that you were.

  • Joe835

    I didn’t call your opinion mindless, I’m calling the reality of Irish being everywhere in this country, regardless of how pointless or daft it looks (the Luas stops with “Jervis Jervis” on them because there’s no translation of the name, for example), mindless.

    And as for you calling non-Irish speakers less Irish, you know well you didn’t call me anything like that and perish the thought such a thing would cross your mind. You’d like this to get bogged-down in small details like that (you’ll probably want an apology or something), but I’d like to keep the debate on the straight and narrow.

    Like you’ve admitted, to keep this debate as wide as possible, you must speak English. This is NOT a bad thing; it’s a wonderful thing. I’m a very proud English speaker but this country seems to think English is a chain of opression and “we’d all really prefer to speak Irish”. We wouldn’t, no more than we’d want a united Ireland when it comes down to it but in Ireland, lip-service is an art form and compulsory Irish is the ultimate manifestation of this.

    We’re a 26 country Anglophone country, a uniquely English-speaking, pro-European (for the most part), young, developing, urban country, a city state with a large back garden where all roads lead to Dublin. There’s a lot wrong with it (a lot wrong with Dublin dominance of the country, for example) and the relentless mantra of complusory Irish no matter what needs to be addressed.

    Thousands are being wasted on UNNECESSARY translations of documents barely read in English because Eamon O’Cuiv decided to fully impose Irish on every corner of Government. It backfired on him with the “Dingle/An Daingean” mess and it will continue come back and haunt Government until realistic measures are brought in to preserve Irish where it survives but remove needless statutory laws regarding it.

  • pid

    “until realistic measures are brought in to preserve Irish where it survives”

    Any ideas on this one Joe? It’s in relentless decline.

  • Joe835

    Take away any compulsory element, Welsh prospered in Wales through non-compulsion – the onus being on the individual to speak it or not. It’s only now becoming a bit too “Irish” in its use in Wales today; many utility companies have bowed to pressure and begun to issue bills in Welsh. The right to “live life in one language” is a ropey type of concept and I think we should move away from that. For example, why should every government document be translated into Irish? Can there be any real use for it? Why should our government spend thousands printing one Irish document for every English document? Because that’s what they must do, by law. It’s not even a case of a certain percentage being in Irish anymore; it must be one-for-one. Despite these people being perfectly capable of speaking English; I don’t believe for one minute that there’s an Irish-speaking monoglot on this island today.

    And it’s insane for a country that by any standard other than our own is an English-speaking country, probably with more Polish-speakers than Irish, we’ve asked for Irish to be an EU working language.

    Anyway, to get back to your question, pid, what realistic measures would I bring in to encourage Irish. Firstly, shrink the Gaeltachtanna. The idea that suburbs of Galway city are in any way Irish-speaking is silly and widely acknowledged, even by the minister. Remove all non-essential financial enticements to do with the language. I would acknowledge that a naíonra needs funding, as does an Irish-speaking national or even secondary school. But only on the basis of its need as a school; there should be no special treatment for such places so that the only reason a child is sent to such a school is for the love of the language; not because it has better facilities than its English-speaking counterparts.

    There’s a desire to keep an area part of the Gaeltacht because of the benefits it may receive from government bodies; take the money aspect out of it and make it the local community’s responsiblity to keep the language alive. If they need more money to do this, ask them why.

    Place the language in its true position within Irish society. It’s our old language, one that’s not entirely dead, but also not spoken outside the Gaeltacht, save for a few individual households. Those speaking it need to realise it’s not the “first” language, it hasn’t got a God-given right to supremacy and that if any language should, it should be the language spoken and/or comprehended by just about every person in the country.

    Irish should be spoken proudly by anyone who wants to for no other reason than a love of the (smaller, minority) language.

  • páid

    Joe,

    only me and you are now interested in this thread.

    I won’t carry on past this.

    To pick just on just one of your statements:

    Why should our government spend thousands printing one Irish document for every English document? Because that’s what they must do, by law.

    It’s utter rubbish. Look into it yourself. Try the next letter you get from a govt. department.

    Reflect on your mistake and think about why you say it.

    I’ve pointed out enough of your false statements.

  • Michael

    A language can be learned from scratch to a good level in a year. I know this from having taught English as a foreign language for a number of years, and from learning other languages abroad.

    As for tangible benefits, do Gaelic games or Irish music have practical benefits? is sense of place and connection with your place (most of the English names of Irish places mean nothing for example, with Irish you have descriptions of down to townlands) a tangible benefit?

    Why stop at ditching Irish, why not ditch regional accents, and opt for the American or British variety.